Investigation, Collaboration, and Chinese Dance…GES Does It All!

Thank you to Media Specialist Kelly Pidcock for sharing a few of the engaging and varied learning experiences happening at Geist Elementary this fall!

geist 3Have you ever wondered what makes a glow stick glow?  Erica Erickson’s 4th graders used that question as a springboard for an investigative process practicing the scientific method. First, students hypothesized and gathered materials. Following an intriguing demonstration by Mrs. Erickson, students wrote the steps to the procedure, formed observations, and drew conclusions. Through the experiment, students discovered that glow sticks have two chemicals.  In the large plastic tube is the diphenyl oxalate.  The plastic tube also contains a smaller glass tube which holds hydrogen peroixide and chemiluminescent dye.  When a glow stick is cracked, the shattering of the glass tube allows the chemicals to combine and form a reaction.  Now that’s a GLOWING experiment! #buddingscientists

Geist Elementary is very fortunate to be one of three pilot schools for Global Studies at HSE.  In this first rotation, children experienced Chinese language through educator Sandra Cao-Wilson’s instruction in Mandarin. Music educator Jen Koenig teamed with Cao-Wilson to provide tastes of Chinese customs and music.  Students sang “Happy Birthday” in Mandarin and learned about birthday celebrations in China.  The students also also had the opportunity to try out traditional Chinese instruments and dance —  students learned the Little Apple Dance and the Fan Dance.


Designing with the Educreations app — using a sound shield to improve audio results

In a fun example of student-centered learning, Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Scott recently let their 4th graders drive instruction. The goal: to build visual and multimedia tools to showcase some strategies for solving multiplication problems. Students teams agreed upon a presentation mode then got to work creating.


The “repeated addition” group using props to create a video

Collaboration and peer review helped the students to produce stellar learning tools to share. The final creations were posted on Canvas to reach a wider audience of parents and families. Now, classroom volunteers have some tools with which to assist during math block!

No Extra Credit If You Nuke!

WIth our K-4 1:1 roll out on deck for August 2016, HSE21 Shorts has devoted much of this school year to sharing HSE21 snapshots from elementary classrooms. Today, though, we’d like to highlight HSE21 in action at HSE High School. Read on!


Mr. Follis, AP Social Studies teacher at HSE High School, exemplified HSE21 before there ever was an HSE21. Mr. Follis is a natural communicator whose classes are student-centered, engaging, and relevant. He has found ways to create learning opportunities for his students that combine depth of content (AP exams are this month!) and meaningful experiences connecting the past to issues in our world today. His recent Cold War simulation is a perfect example.

IMG_3707Mr. Follis ran HSE’s Cold War as an in-school field trip for his AP European History classes.  Students represented the East (the Warsaw Pact), the West (NATO) or the United Nations.  All day, teams were confronted with real problems which they could choose to solve diplomatically or… Throughout the game, wars broke out, territories changed hands, and treaties were signed.  Newscasts, propaganda campaigns and the Olympic Games heightened excitement throughout the day. Nineteen-fifties technology meant no computers – files and books were the only sources of information available! Communication? Only through ambassadors, the red phone and one’s defcon status. (I had to Google ‘defcon‘.)

IMG_3711Of course, no Cold War simulation would be complete without spies and the threat of nuclear war. KGB and CIA leaders recruited spies, who could steal launch codes, locations of bases, troop numbers, and game stats.  Spies could be caught and tried…or flipped to become double agents. Each side had the potential to ‘nuke’ the other (Translation: force the other side to take the unit test); but nuclear war has consequences for all – a retaliatory strike could lead to mutually assured destruction! A ‘box’ (with electronics, sound effects, a red button, and two launch keys) made by HSE engineering students  sat ready throughout the day, an ominous reminder of what could be.

In ten years, these AP European History alums might not remember how to spell Romania. What they will still remember (really, what they will still deeply understand), though, is far more important. Why is it difficult for nations with conflicting values and visions to work together? What potential solutions exist, and what are their costs? What does that mean for us today?

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“The simulation was a smash.  The paranoia at times got the kids so worked up they were literally yelling – they were actually fatigued at the end of the day by the whole experience.  The whole game came down to a dice roll and it was possibly the most exciting moment of my teaching career.  No one asked for “the case”; the students realized the benefits of working together.”      – Jamie Follis

Those HSE21 Shoes!

IMG_1721In traditional classrooms, character trait study likely consisted of a teacher lesson (read: lecture) to explain the term ‘character trait’, followed by individual seat work. Students would sit quietly at their desks, read a story alone, and then write a paragraph about the story’s characters and their traits. Students’ written work would be graded and sent home in a folder. The end.

Take a peek into HSE21 classrooms, though, and what you’ll see is completely different! HSE21 means that character study – indeed all academic content – is presented in active, student-centered ways that lead to deeper learning. What does does HSE21 look like in the classroom? Consider this recent HSE21 example of character trait study:

At Thorpe Creek Elementary, third grade teacher Mrs. Muegge introduced character traits to her students through  an HSE21 lens. Following her interactive mini-lesson, Muegge asked student pairs to choose books for their own character studies. Partners considered the characters in their stories and, with Muegge’s guidance and help, decided on traits that best exemplified each. Students then created, shared, and discussed presentations and what they’d learned. Here’s a final product, created and shared by Aariyah and Gabrielle:

While staying true to the academic standards, HSE21 teaching and learning turns the traditional quiet classroom into a vibrant learning lab.

  • Student Choice – Which book would you like to use for this project?
  • Collaboration – Let’s work with partners to analyze the characters; we can learn from each other!
  • Engagement and Creativity – Design a presentation to teach us what you learned!
  • Extension of Learning – We’ll post our presentations and share our learning with each other and those beyond our classroom walls!

In which type of classroom would you rather learn?


School Start Time Question = Project-Based Learning Opportunity

Students in Mr. Hamm’s Language Arts classroom at Riverside Intermediate were learning about non-fiction reading strategies when a Problem Based Learning (PBL) opportunity presented itself following the reading of one specific text.  An article about the benefits of adjusting school start times for teenage students sparked a discussion on why Hamilton Southeastern Schools is fighting mother-nature.  The discussion led to a PBL experience for the students entitled School Start Times in HSE.

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Students were put into collaborative groups tasked with the problem, “How do we better serve the students of HSE based on scientific research regarding school start times?”  After a few weeks of working, students were required to present their research and solution to their peers.  While all groups did a fantastic job, two specific groups stood out and were allowed to collaborate toward a final presentation that was made to the HSE School Board in May 2015.  The students used their digital tools to develop a presentation that impressed the school board members.  While there is no guarantee that times will be changing for the students in HSE, the process students used were focused on the goals of HSE21.

Second Graders Tour the States!

Mrs. VanWynsberghe’s and Mrs. Philhower’s classes recently filmed a tour of the entire United States! The Fall Creek Elementary second graders have appreciated the music of The Brainbeats while learning about our fifty states. Enjoy their fifty states tour, based on the catchy Brainbeats song, Tour the States.



Here’s the official Tour the States video by the Brainbeats. And…here’s their new music video, Tour the World. (It’s a little longer!) One more…Brainbeats music is available for purchase here.

Shark Tank…with Heart

IMG_0771This week’s Shark Tank at HSE High School was not a literal pool of Great Whites, but a lecture hall filled with peers and several sharks, community members who volunteered their time to listen to students pitch Genius Hour projects-in-development. Teachers Kelsey Habig and Jill McGrath have spent the last several months helping their eleventh-grade English students design and conduct research for individual projects based on each student’s individual interests and passions.

IMG_0791The next step in this learning process has been for students to offer up their plans to an authentic audience for comments and suggestions. School board members, business owners, and others have made up the HSEHS Shark Tank. Unlike ABC’s Shark Tank, though, these Sharks weren’t invited to invest in entrepreneur wannabes. The local Sharks were in the audience to listen–to ask probing questions and to provide helpful feedback: “Have you thought about what might happen if you…?” “What about contacting ___? Their office might have some resources to get you started.” “I love your energy and passion–now what might your action steps be?”

IMG_0803By the time most students reach high school, they are used to being called upon to answer questions in class and to present projects to classmates. To stand on a stage before an audience of peers and adults, however, in order to present individual work based on personal interests and passions–this is very new. Students shared from their hearts, backing up their project designs with data and research. Whether a project sprung out of a need connected to a personal past time, an issue observed in the school community, or a cultural concern with global ramifications, students revealed their ability to analyze and come up with creative solutions to real-world problems. HSE21 Shorts can’t wait to see the follow-through!

Bear Bonanza

Thanks to media specialist Amy Michael of Fall Creek Elementary for today’s post!

fce1One of my passions as media specialist at Fall Creek Elementary is to promote excitement for reading. Motivating kids to read is one my favorite aspects of my job. When the new Paddington Bear movie hit theaters I realized that my students probably didn’t know that Paddington was originally a book character! I wanted the kids to know more about him and all of the other famous bears in literature. So FCE had a week long “BEAR BONANZA.”

fceThe week started with Paddington Bear posters around the school telling the kids to get ready for a bear hunt. It sparked their excitement and got them wanting more. The following week they found trivia questions posted in the hallways with QR codes. The kids had a great time scanning the codes and finding the answers to the questions. Some of the questions were geared towards the higher grades. This meant they had to do research to find the information. Another good skill for them to embrace!

fce6The library contained a non-fiction section for them as well. The students were encouraged to find facts about the bears and write them down for others to read. I knew that the first grade teachers were getting ready to kickoff a thematic unit on polar bears, so this was the perfect tie in. It was also a great opportunity for me to teach the kindergarteners how to compare and contrast the characteristics of fiction and non-fiction bears.

fce11Many fun read alouds were done with the numerous bear books. Students learned the history of Paddington, the Berenstain Bears, Winnie-the-Pooh, and many others.

The week wrapped up with the kids bringing their favorite teddy bear to school! The children read to their bears, fourth graders read to the kindergarteners; the students wrote bare books with their bears, and took their bears to the library to snuggle up with a good book!

The 21st Century Research Project: Literacy Instruction on Steroids

As an education major in the 20th century, I was schooled in four components of literacy instruction: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These were foundational. They still are. In today’s world, though, additional literacies, sort-of ‘sub-category’ literacies, are vital as well. Depending on your source, there’s visual literacy, media literacy, and multimedia literacy. Add digital literacy, technological literacy, and (my favorite) information literacy. Clearly, these overlap; but the implication is obvious: today’s teachers have a lot of ground to cover in preparing their students to be fully-literate adults!

Sixth-grader Samie argues that smoking be banned in public places. Her great preparation and depth of research earned her a perfect score on the project!

Sixth-grader Samie argues that smoking be banned in public places. Her great preparation and depth of research earned her a perfect score on the project!

In the traditional or ‘old school’ research project, students read and write. They choose a topic, find information (remember the 100 notecards?), organize that information, and write a paper. The best research projects today, however, require students to practice both traditional and 21st century literacies–so much so that I call these projects literacy-instruction-on-steroids!  Great teachers are adept at designing projects through which students get to delve into every named aspect of literacy, and more.

Mr. Gutwein used the topic of pizza to demonstrate the mapping app Popplet for his students.

Mr. Gutwein used the topic of pizza to demonstrate the mapping app Popplet for his students.

Here’s an example: In their recent unit on persuasion, Aaron Gutwein’s sixth-graders at Riverside Intermediate first chose their own topics (all were current issues). They conferenced one-on-one with Gutwein, who guided each student to formulate a ‘big idea’ and direction for research. Students did lots of deep thinking as they sought information, mapped out arguments, gathered feedback, tweaked their plans, again sought information—over and over in a recursive process of multi-layered literacy instruction. Students used digital tools to access and organize information, and to build creative presentations. They shared their findings with peers.

Some key results of the project:

  • A deeper understanding of current issues, along with their nuances and complexities.
  • An understanding of how and where to find valid information, and what it means to make evidenced-based claims.
  • And, of course, practice in literacy skills, both the old and the new.

The Pagemaster and the Performing Arts

3917_aaEach spring, the Fishers High School performing arts department showcases students in a unique way. An event, known as the Performing Arts (PA) Festival, is the culmination of a year’s focus around a common theme. During the year, all teachers in the performing arts department–band, orchestra, choir, drama, speech, and tech theater–engage their students in curriculum-driven ways to foster learning around the chosen theme. Throughout the year, learning deepens, connections are made, and collaboration grows, culminating in a stellar event that conveys a deeply understood and heart-felt message to eager audiences. Past themes include War & Peace, Love, The Oscars, and The Magic of Disney.

This year’s PA Festival will be based on the film The Pagemaster, a story of transformation from timidity to courage. Throughout this fall semester, performing arts students have been reading, researching, and collaborating. They’ve begun the artistic design process. In the spring, they’ll continue design, and begin rehearsals. In May, the Fishers community will be treated to the product of a year’s work of nearly five hundred students and faculty. HSE21 Shorts will revisit preparations for the PA Festival as the event approaches. Stay tuned!

The Pagemaster Project exemplifies 21st century learning. In the example below (from the vantage point of the FHS Bands), notice that student-choice, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, creation and presentation are all integral parts of the assignment. This fall, these factors have been at work within performing arts sectors. In the spring, these elements will still be present, as collaboration happens between the areas. HSE21 Shorts is excited to see how these groups, working together, will connect the dots and build the Festival!

View example: The Pagemaster Project – band

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Authentic Assessment: The Power of Words Narrative

dalton1At Riverside Junior High, Stephanie Dalton’s 8th grade language arts classes just finished their study of Markus Zusak’s acclaimed novel, The Book Thief. In order to leave a lasting impression, Miss Dalton decided to replace her traditional assessment with something more authentic and relevant. Thus was born the power of words narrative. Believing that assessment should be meaningful, transferable, and engaging, Miss Dalton challenged her students to prove that words are powerful through narrative writing with a twist.

dalton2The first step for students was to find a group of words that had had some impact on their life, such as a quote, lyric, or piece of wisdom. The second step was to tell the story that surrounded that quote. Students shared the moment they heard the quote, or the moment they have seen the quote play out in their own lives. Step three was to record their narratives. Students recorded their narratives in their own voices on iPads. Then, presentation day! Students sat comfortably throughout the classroom, listening to each other’s stories.

The transformation that happened from a writing piece for a one-person audience to a verbal piece for a multi-person audience made all the difference. Students longed to create something that their peers appreciated. Students reflected and re-recorded when their writing was not excellent. And students left the room proud, as their classmates praised their stories and made connections to their own struggles.  In this authentic, meaningful assessment, Miss Dalton’s students demonstrated their understanding of the most important message from Zusak’s novel: words are powerful.